A good co-founder will boost your startup’s chances to succeed.
5 min read
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The average age of entrepreneurs seems to get more youthful every year. With tech savviness starting before potty training it's hard not to assume every child is one step away from becoming the next Jobs or Zuckerberg. However, a new study shows that middle-aged entrepreneurs tend to have more success than their younger peers. So, what’s a fresh-faced founder to do? Procure a partner, of course.
According to a Startup Genome report, the right co-founder can significantly increase your chances of entrepreneurial success. The researchers found teams that paired a founder with business prowess and another with technical know-how secured 30 percent more funding, had triple the user growth, and were nearly one-fifth less likely to scale the business too early than teams in which either business or technical expertise was overrepresented.
As Marc Fischer, CEO of mobile technology studio Dogtown Media, argues, “Without the right co-founder, there is no startup.” Fischer, who co-founded his company with a more technically oriented counterpart, owes much of his success to such a partnership. But like most other successful team-ups, it took time for Fischer to find the right startup mate.
Gaining the perfect co-founder for your startup will be just as essential to your success. Here are three tips to follow when looking for "the one":
1. Seek supplementary strengths.
Finding a co-founder is a lot like dating, and that includes the impulse to slink toward similarities and common interests. For your startup’s sake, steer yourself away from that dangerous desire. The point of your partnership is to make sure that your co-founder’s strengths can fortify your weaknesses, and vice versa.
For those with business prowess, this means finding a tech expert to shore up your interpersonal skills. For the tech-savvy, that could mean finding someone who’s adept at marketing and building a business so you can focus on creating and innovating your products and services. To achieve the right balance, recognize and be honest about your own strengths and weaknesses while prodding potential partners for theirs.
2. Contribute to the community.
You’ll have a better chance at finding someone who can match your big ideas if you interact with entrepreneurial communities. For example, Facebook offers a wealth of online groups for local entrepreneurs to interact with and learn from each other. I personally am a member of over a dozen where we regularly post questions and help each other as a community – the time investment is well worth the networking benefit.
It isn’t all just socializing and networking, though. You should offer your unique thoughts to these groups to see how they resonate. People who think alike and share your vision will engage with you, which may spark the startup romance that gets your business going. Or maybe you'll find a helpful critic who can balance your ideas and contribute to your business success in that way. Either way, these groups of fellow entrepreneurs are your friend.
3. Chase chemistry.
Professional strengths and skills that complement each other are important, but there’s also a significant personal aspect to startup partnerships. Entrpereneurial pursuits are a full time (and then some) gig. You’ll be spending an insane amount of time with each other in the future, and personal problems are a commonly cited reason for the failure of startups with multiple founders.
Just like in any relationship, opposites attract. Chemistry can draw together the most dissimilar of cohorts. No matter your differences, a certain camaraderie can make the bad days much better — and you’re sure to have some bad days as you fight the uphill battle of starting a new business. Qualifications are important, but be sure to spend time getting to know a potential partner personally before deciding to share your startup life with him or her. A difference of opinion is fine, the key is balance. If you don't get along with your partner, the business isn't going to go far.
The difference between co-founder dating and actual dating is that you have predetermined metrics for the success of your partnership. That means you may be tempted to jump in once you find someone who checks all the boxes on your search list. However, checkboxes don't necessarily equal chemistry, so it’s important not to rush into anything.
When you’re searching for the right co-founder, the stakes are high. You’re looking for someone you can trust with your idea, your future, and it’s a hard choice to undo. By finding supplemental strengths, networking with your community of entrepreneurs, and chasing co-founder chemistry in the search for the ultimate unicorn, you'll be sure to find a partnership you can both swipe right on.